Cuomo punts on MTA funding
Last week, when reporters once again pressed Governor Andrew Cuomo on how he would pay his share of the MTA’s capital plan — the one that maintains the subway system in a state of moderately good repair — he said those reporters would find out soon enough.
“We have a roughly $140 billion annual budget,” he said at the January 8 event, the one where he announced USB ports in subway cars. “Part of it is debt. Part of it is revenue. And the state’s contribution of $8 billion will be in that $140 billion financial plan.”
That financial plan was released yesterday.
In it, Cuomo punts, according to Chuck Brecher, the co-director of research at the Citizens Budget Commission.
“We were looking to the budget as being the time and the place where they would indicate how they’re going to pay for the commitment to do the $8-plus billion in the capital plan,” said Brecher. “The approach they’ve taken is to say they want to stall.”
The governor’s office had no immediate comment.
The MTA’s spokesman said the authority was still looking into the matter, reiterating what the MTA earlier told City and State, when the publication first reported the absence of any funding details.
Last year, the state appropriated $1 billion for the plan. So, now, the state owes $7.3 billion, according to Brecher.
The state is only committing to hand over the rest of that money after the MTA has spent all of its contributions from the city and federal government.
“What they’re saying is we promise to give you the rest of the $7.3 billion and we’ll give it to you as the last dollar in the capital plan, after you’ve used up all the money you’ve promised,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the mayor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The plan is to have a plan, and in the meanwhile, to keep having budget surpluses!” said Nicole Gelinas, a transportation expert with the Manhattan Institute, via email.
“Practically speaking, it means the MTA will have to do its borrowing up front, and that when and if we have a fiscal crisis, the state will have to come up with a new emergency revenue, a la the 2009 payroll tax, to avoid draconian service cuts,” she added. “They are stretching a five-year capital program well beyond the six-year budget outlook, meaning, officially or unofficially, debt.”